September 17, 2010

Managing Expectations

"God, give me the strength to accept that which I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference," quoted the keynote speaker at our orientation last month. This is, of course, the Serenity Prayer, AKA the AA Prayer, but he thought--and I can't help but totally, 100%, completely, entirely agree--that it applies pretty well to the teaching abroad situation.

There are a lot of expectations to deal with here: the expectations you have of your job; of your house; of Japan; the expectations your job has of you. Even little things, like, "I didn't expect to run into face-hugger-sized spiders, but there's one in that tree there!"*

Lately, I've been feeling a wall between my expectations, my job's expectations, and reality: I want to do X and they want me to do Y. I thought I would be Z-ing, but instead I A and B. Or I ask to C, and they look at me like I'm crazy. The latest discussion is over vacation time, a fair chunk of which is coming up soon--but for various reasons, none of it on the days it should be. So they want me to take my holiday on this day, I want to take it on this day, etc.**

It's all working out in the end, happily. They want me to come to such-and-such, and I find a way to do that. I want to go away on so-and-so, and I find a way to do that, too. It's all pretty okay, actually. A little frustrating as a process, but I think the solution will turn out to be fine.

So why do I mention this? What's the point?


This week, some fellow ALTs and I taught a special class at another school on World Peace. One of our questions for the students was: "What makes you feel peace the most in your daily life?" And without fail, in every group, at least two people out of eight said it was talking with their friends.

"You're right," I told them. "When I'm feeling bad, I call my best friend, and that makes me feel peaceful again." Which is both unoriginal and the sign of a really awesome friend, which I am lucky to have***. Hi, Nagano!

So my point, Future JET, is this: for Pete's sake, make sure you have a decent support system here. You never know when you're going to need it, even over the smallest things. You need someone you can just say, "Face-hugging spider! Face-hugging spider!*" to every so often.

Oh, and make friends with your OL. She'll give you pudding. For real.


*Incidentally, this is the reason behind that failed photo essay I never posted: the zoom on my camera is terrible, and I couldn't bring myself to get close enough to the spiders to get decent pictures of them.

**Amazingly, this negotiation, or whatever, has included me asking if I can work on a day they were planning for me not to. If you told me I'd ever be asking to work...)

**Even if, sort of ironically, the entire vacation negotiation is happening because of said friend. So I get frustrated because it's hard to visit her, and then I get relief by talking to her about being frustrated that I'm having trouble visiting her. God bless the Internet, anyway.

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